Permanent Residence -- Film Review

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HONG KONG -- "Permanent Residence" is director Scud's semi-autobiographical film that deals with growing pains, gay sexual awakening and unrequited love for a straight man. A stylistic oddity, it alternates between existential musings (on death and memory), unbridled narcissism and homoerotica.

Scud's debut, "City Without Baseball," was ostensibly a sports film about Hong Kong's only amateur baseball team. Strangely enough, the camera there was more often trained on full frontal nudes in the shower than on the diamond. Yet its stance about homosexuality was so coy that metaphorically, the film was like a queer with one leg in the closet.

Compared to "City," Scud's sophomore effort is unambiguously out. For this reason alone, it is a welcome entry to the rather narrow circle of gay filmmaking in Hong Kong -- and more marketable to gay-themed fests and specialty distributors.

Ivan (Sean Li) is an IT professional who masks his indifference to the opposite sex by working so hard that he has no time for dating. One day, he is invited to a TV talk show, during which Josh (Jackie Chow), a guest speaker from Israel, suddenly asks him if he is gay. Flustered, he denies it. The episode makes him come face to face with his desires, giving him the courage to chat up hunky Windson (Osman Hung) at the gym. At their beach rendezvous, Windson suddenly confesses that he is straight.

Ivan sleeps with Josh instead, but after Josh leaves Hong Kong, Ivan and Windson begin a curious friendship that finds them cavorting naked all the time, even as Windson denies he's gay.

Ivan's quest for the meaning of love traverses Hong Kong, Japan, Israel and Australia, providing a pretext for Scud to observe his leading men exposing themselves against different watery backdrops. There is some affecting social observations on the pressures of coming out, which could strike a chord with many Asian viewers.

Prolific cinematographer Herman Yau's competent lensing partly redeems the art direction, which fluctuates from pretentious to crude. As a director, Scud remains inexperienced with film language; his narrative approach is heavily literary, reflected in the wordy first-person voiceover and an ending that dabbles in futuristic, sci-fi elements. The cast puts in amateur but acceptable performances.

Production company: Artwalker Production
Cast: Sean Li, Osman Hung, Jackie Chow, Lau Yu Hong
Director/screenwriter/producer: Scud
Associate Producer: Heman Peng
Director of photography: Herman Yau
Music: Teddy Robin Kwan
Editor: Jacky Leung
Sales: Golden Scene Co. Ltd.
No rating, 116 minutes